BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati urged Lebanese expatriates in the Democratic Republic of Congo to register and prepare to vote for the 2013 parliamentary elections, his press office said Saturday.
"I call on all [Lebanese] to register their names at their embassies and diplomatic missions to participate in the elections and not fail to participate in this central matter,” Mikati told a gathering of the Lebanese community in Congo late Friday.
Mikati is in DR Congo where he is heading Lebanon’s delegation to the Francophone summit which is scheduled to begin Saturday.
The delegation includes Deputy Prime Minister Samir Mouqbel, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas and Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun.
During his speech Friday, the prime minister said his government had fulfilled its duty in preparing a mechanism for expatriates to vote.
“This registration is of great importance as we await a new electoral law from Parliament,” Mikati, who described the expat vote as crucial, said.
The government has approved a voting mechanism for the millions of Lebanese living outside the country but has yet to approve the funds necessary for its implementation.
Meanwhile, March 14 coalition MP Butros Harb slammed the government for failing to do enough in terms of facilitating voting for Lebanese expatriates, referring to Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour's remarks that only 3,000 Lebanese had so far registered to vote.
"[His remarks] represent a great scandal because it showcases the Foreign Ministry's utter failure in launching an actual and serious awareness campaign that would urge Lebanese around the world to register to vote in the electoral process," Harb told a gathering of Lebanese in Ohio, United States.
He also said Hezbollah opposed the expat vote as the party is not allowed to campaign in countries like the United States. The U.S. lists the Lebanese resistance group as a “terrorist organization.”
Harb, a staunch critic of Mikati’s government, also accused the Foreign Ministry of deliberately obstructing Lebanese expatriates from their right to vote.